ArtStarts in Schools is a not-for-profit organization that promotes art and creativity among British Columbia’s young people.
We believe the arts are an essential part of educating young people and a catalyst for creating innovative, engaged and contributing members of society.
For the last 16 years, ArtStarts has supported and promoted professional arts presentations and artist-led programs in urban, rural and remote regions of British Columbia. ArtStarts’ key areas of activity include booking school performances, an annual showcase conference, artist residencies, grants to schools and districts, professional learning opportunities for artists and teachers, gallery exhibitions of young people’s art, and free family programming.
To experience a tangible version of ArtStarts’ mission and vision, we invite you to visit our public Gallery – Canada’s first for young people’s art – located at 808 Richards street in downtown Vancouver. One of the pieces currently on display is “The Giving Trees of Haida Gwaii”, which is a series of four large felted wool pieces made by students in Kindergarten to Grade 7. This project was created by students at Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary School in Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, BC, working with their teachers and artist Kiki van der Heiden
These educators worked together with the artist to design an eight-week long artist residency that would not only expose the kids to a new artform, but also intertwine other elements, such as sciences, cultural studies, language arts, as part of the learning experience. The school then applied for an Artists in the Classroom grant from ArtStarts to help raise the funds necessary to bring their ideas to life.
Surrounded by forests, this school in Haida Gwaii was a perfect location for students to learn more about trees. Each class adopted a different tree to work with: Cedar, Spruce, Hemlock and Alder. Through guided hikes with and Interpretation Officer at Parks Canada, the students learned about the life cycles of the trees, as well as their significance in Haida culture.
Painting exercises, yoga and meditation followed, encouraging the students to tap into their connection to the forest and develop sensitivity to the natural world.
All these experiences were channeled into a series of felting projects guided by local artist Kiki van der Heiden. They started by creating “seeds” — by wrapping raw fibres around a rock and rubbing it with warm soapy water, the students discovered that the wool shrinks and fibres interlock, creating a solid fabric. The next week, students created “roots” by rolling the fibres.
Students then started imagining stories for each of their trees and developing ideas for the composition of the larger pieces that they would work on as a group. Individual “pre-felt” pieces, like the little faces pictured below, were created by the young artists and together they built up the large panels.
After much wetting, rolling, rubbing, squeezing, and wringing…
…the felt pieces came out looking simply gorgeous!
Artist Kiki van der Heiden has seen first-hand what kind of impact art can have on young minds. “To share creative techniques and tools with children helps to empower them to express themselves in a creative way,” she says. “The stronger the foundation of trust in their creative selves, the more likely they are to retain and use that power throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Art is such a powerful tool to express ourselves when we are unable to find the right words or feel too shy or otherwise inhibited to express ourselves.”
We feel lucky to host these artworks at the ArtStarts Gallery. Everyone who enters the Gallery loves the work — and once they hear the stories behind the pieces, and discover how the process allowed students to delve into many subjects for a rich learning experience, visitors are even more inspired.
We feel even more fortunate that we are able to provide opportunities for young people to engage in this kind of creative experience. Through your generous support of ArtStarts through the BMO Vancouver Marathon’s RUN4HOPE, you help bring creativity into young lives.
To learn more about ArtStarts in Schools or to make a donation, please visit artstarts.com
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Artstarts in Schools does amazing things for our community and the communities they serve. Support them and give back by making a donation during registration. To make additional donations after registration or to invite family and friends to donate, visit our Donate Now page. Thank you for helping to make a great impact for our community!